Making PA History Come Alive!

When we meet someone new and tell them we are from Pennsylvania, most people think of the Liberty Bell, Indepence Hall and the birthplace of America. It is a very important state. But what do our students’ think of Pennsylvania? Do they know how important Pennsylvania is and its importance to our nation? Will they proudly tell how great Pennsylvania is and how glad they are to have lived here? Here are some interesting facts that really amaze my students! Religious tolerance was important to William Penn, as was his belief in the brotherhood of all men. So it is no surprise that in the Declaration of Independence, which was written in Philadelphia, we read, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…" But did you know that William Penn had three slaves?

Pennsylvania had the largest city in the English Colonies…Philadelphia! In fact, Lewis of the Lewis and Clark expedition came to Philadelphia to learn about sciences before his historic journey. He spent $2,324 in Philadelphia to prepare for his trip! That was a lot of money in 1803. How do you teach Pennsylvania history? How do you make our history come alive and share knowledge about our great state? Do you have a neat project to share or a virtual field trip other teachers can visit in their classroom?

Here are some titles in unitedstreaming to help get your students excited about the Keystone state…

American Geography Close-Ups: The Middle Atlantic States Volume I
American Geography Close-ups: The Middle Atlantic States Volume II
Early Settlers: The Era of Colonization
Westward Expansion: The Pioneer Challenge
Making the Thirteen Colonies: The Middle Colonies

Katie Leach is a Social Studies/Gifted Support teacher from Weatherly High School.  Katie is also the very first PA DEN member. 


Related posts


  1. Kim Smith said:

    The following websites are full of educational resources for eductors, parents and students. The National Parks System has interactive systems such as ‘Webrangers,’ ‘GoZone,’ and ‘GalleryZone.’
    Visit these sites for historical information with rich Pennsylvania History, virtual &/or actual field trip ideas.

    Another United Streaming resource;
    U.S. Geography: The Northeast
    “Students tour the region whose abundant resources helped the United States become an industrial power. Understanding Maps—Learn the basics of interpreting physical,”

  2. Catherine Galie said:

    In connection with the post on Pennsylvania history, let’s not forget that Philadelphia was also part of the early music careers and education of students. Francis Hopkinson, who signed the Declaration of Independence also was the first American composer, and in 1764 the children of Philadelphia were being instructed in the art of psalmody, due to Francis Hopkinson’s help. Later Andrew Adgate established a singing school, the Moravians settled in Bethlehem, Nazareth and Lititz, bringing their German music training and music with them, and the Mennonites settled in Philadelphia and Germantown, bringing hymnbooks from Germany. Music became part of everyday life and worship for people in Philadelphia and surrounding areas and music became part of education after it first began in Boston.

  3. Beth Lynam said:

    To inspire students to learn more about PA History on their own, one of my colleagues and I have paired up our classes and assigned each pair a letter of the alphabet. The students then create a PowerPoint slide with interesting PA facts that correspond to their letter. Students use multiple resources such as the Internet, travel guides and brochures, and books to locate unusual facts. Once they have their facts, they spend one period in the computer lab to create their slide. We then pull all of the slides together into one presentation – PA from A to Z – and show the final slideshow to our students in a subsequent class. We have been amazed by what the students have uncovered!

  4. RJ Stangherlin said:

    Is history factual fiction? From what perspectives is history written? Is Zinn’s People’s History of the United States more or less authentic than Schwiekart and Allen’s A Patriot’s History of the United States? Is Smith’s History of Virginia an exercise in blame displacement? Do gender, politics, economics, and ethnicity impact the authority of history? Who and what are present in textual history, but more importantly, who and what are absent? What makes history authentic?

    Students in my English 11 classes grapple with these questions as they assess history as a genre and establish standards for authentic history. The fun begins when they have to apply their standards for authentic history to their creation of history—of Salisbury Township, their class, their family, or a friendship. Students share their histories in a Read Around, using a rubric for peer assessment they design. When each group reports out, the class compares and contrasts the histories for consistency and standards-based accuracy. When students are satisfied with their histories, they post them to my website’s message board. Students are encouraged to respond respectfully to posted histories. As the postings pyramid, students engage in a dialogue that takes them into reader-response theory [without the label] as they question if history reinvents itself…is perception truth…is the history their mothers and fathers learned their history. Later in the year, we examine a short history of a WW II battle from five different countries’ viewpoints with our original standards, and modify our criteria for authenticity. Not an easy task, but always interesting.

Comments are closed.